Following is a listing of executive and legislative action for the week of January 28. At press time, members of the General Assembly were set to return to session February 4.
PENN STATE FINES
The Senate has approved SB 187, which aims to keep in Pennsylvania the $60 million in fines paid by Penn State University over the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal.
The bill would require any institution of higher education that receives state-appropriated funds and has received a penalty of $10 million or more from an outside governing body to establish an endowment, set up through the state Treasurer, that will distribute the funds in Pennsylvania
“This money is coming from Pennsylvania residents, so it makes sense that it should stay here to benefit organizations and children in the commonwealth,” said state Senator Jake Corman, R-Centre, the sponsor of the bill.
“The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection recently issued a comprehensive report which points to many worthwhile programs in our state that could benefit greatly from the fine money," Corman said. "The task force received testimony from more than 60 experts on protecting children and investigating child abuse, and its recommendations could amount to a virtual rewriting of the Child Protective Services Law.“
The Senate has approved a resolution, SR 6, that directs a state-level commission, the Joint State Government Commission, to assemble an advisory committee of experts to study the causes of violence and recommend preventative measures. The study from the advisory committee is due December 31.
A statement from the sponsor of the bill, state , R-Montgomery, said that in light of the Sandy Hook shooting and other mass shootings in recent years, the committee will study the underlying causes of these tragedies and other violent crimes.
A spokesman for Greenleaf said the advisory commission would be made up of public officials with expertise on what causes violence.
“This complements another Senator Greenleaf proposal to enact a Kendra’s Law in Pennsylvania,” Senate spokesman Aaron Zappia said.
New York approved Kendra’s Law in 1999 after Kendra Webdale was pushed in front of a New York City subway by someone later determined to be mentally ill. The law grants judges the authority to issue orders that require people who meet certain criteria to regularly undergo psychiatric treatment. Failure to comply could result in commitment for up to 72 hours.
Legislation, SB 75, that would create the Pennsylvania Council for the Prevention of Human Trafficking, increase training for first responders and expand the resources available to victim service providers was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
SB 75 also more clearly defines the crime of human trafficking and increases fines and penalties, according to a statement released by Greenleaf, the sponsor of the bill.
"There has only been one conviction under Pennsylvania’s current statute,” Greenleaf said. “The law’s definition of ‘human trafficking’ is vague, and lacks the teeth needed to effectively prosecute these criminals. They are often charged with other crimes or allowed to plea bargain to lesser charges."
In 2010, the passage of Greenleaf’s SR 253 directed the Joint State Government Commission, the legislature’s central research agency, to establish an advisory committee to study the problem of human trafficking. The new legislation contains the recommendations of the advisory committee’s report.
According to the report, the National Human Trafficking hotline has seen a steady increase in reporting over the last five years, with over 19,000 calls in 2011. The United Nations estimates 2.5 million people worldwide are subject to forced labor or sexual exploitation, including 1.2 million children, while 161 nations are a source, pass-through or destination for trafficking victims.